Phoenix City Council approves contract for 2,000 police body cameras

Feb 6, 2019, 6:15 PM | Updated: 8:38 pm
(AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes, File)...
(AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes, File)
(AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes, File)

PHOENIX — Phoenix City Council voted 7-1 on Wednesday to approve a contract that will equip Phoenix police with 2,000 new body cameras.

The contract with Axon Enterprise Inc. will result in the hiring of 21 additional people to support the body camera program.

The estimated five-year cost for the program is about $16.7 million.

“Today’s vote to finally put into practice the wearing of body-worn cameras by our sworn police personnel could not come at a more crucial, pivotal, or meaningful time for our city,” Councilwoman Laura Pastor said in a statement following the vote.

“This valuable apparatus has the potential to save lives and prevent needless accidents, ensures accountability, and can build bridges between the police and communities throughout the city.”

Many citizens at the council meeting supported the additional body cameras but called for stronger rules, including limiting times police can turn them off.

Some mentioned the department’s record 44 officer-involved shootings in 2018.

Phoenix Police Chief Jeri Williams said at a press conference following the vote that the department should soon hear from the National Police Foundation, which is conducting a report on the officer-involved shootings.

Executive Assistant Chief Michael Kurtenbach said at the press conference that the cameras will be worn on the front of officer’s uniforms and can be turned off in some instances, like when officers are at lunch.

The new cameras will have auto-activation capabilities, he said, which works with devices placed in police vehicles to reduce the amount of times officers forget to turn on the cameras.

Kurtenbach said the existing 300 cameras being used will be removed from officers because they are from another vendor.

Once the department begins the new program in 30 to 45 days, he said, it will take about a week to remove the old cameras, and the new cameras will start rolling out the next week.

There will not be enough cameras for everyone because the department is hoping to reach a total of 3,125 officers after their current hiring cycle, he said.

Kurtenbach said about 1,400 cameras will go to first responder officers and sergeants in the deployment’s first phase, and then 200 will go to transit, traffic and others officers.

According to City Council documents, the schedule for rolling out the cameras will be based on the distribution of 2018 officer-involved shootings, with cameras first going to the Mountain-Estrella Mountain Precinct.

These cameras will be assessed, and then the department will decide where to place the remaining cameras, hopefully having all of them deployed within six months, he said.

“I don’t know if it’s fair to say (the cameras) will decrease officer-involved shootings, because there are so many dynamics that go into such an encounter, but regardless of what does happen, having cameras out there will display what actions occur … bottom line is, as Chief Williams said, there will be more transparency because we’ll have cameras out there,” Kurtenbach said.

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Phoenix City Council approves contract for 2,000 police body cameras